Fallout From Postponed Youth Olympic Games

(ATR) What about the kids? That’s the question following Dakar 2022 postponement. Olivia Diaz Ugalde reports from Buenos Aires.

(ATR) When the 2022 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar, Senegal were pushed back to 2026, the first question was what would happen to the young athletes and their development.

The July announcement by IOC president Thomas Bach and Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, cited the postponement of Tokyo 2020 and the financial consequences of the coronavirus among reasons for the delay.

But, what happens to the projects and the development of athletes ranging in age from 15 to 18? Many countries were working with a significant number of young athletes on their development -- encouraging them to become professional athletes, and learn the fundamentals of sports.

Will these efforts continue?

Different countries in South America had different policies as they planned for Dakar 2022. While it’s too soon to say what the future holds for these young athletes, one thing is for sure: the work done was positive and they are not going to throw this off the boat.

"It will be a matter of moving forward with the Olympic objective and rescheduling our planning, competitions and keep focusing on our skills and being better for the future," Mariano Reutemann, coach of the YOG sailing team, told the Argentine newspaper, La Voz. The postponement was a double disappointment for Reutemann, whose son Martin was on the team.

"We believe that the YOG program we developed has a huge impact for the next sports generation. We saw it at the Buenos Aires 2018 edition, and the new talents we started working on were enthusiastic and willing to work and gain that experience," he said.

"The evolution of the program around the whole country, and the positive impact was great. That’s why despite all, we have to get new goals and work towards them," says Carlos Getzelevich, coordinator of the YOG program from the Argentine National High Performance Sports Agency (ENARD).

"We … were able to encourage sport development across the country and that’s thanks to this program.

"This postponement is not what we expected and has a negative impact on the young athletes’ growth as (they) will lose Dakar experience, but we are thrilled to announce that we will continue supporting them, despite all."

While Getzelevich thinks it was premature to postpone the YOG – "maybe a positive solution (would have been) to transfer the campus to another city that has the accommodation facilities" – he says Argentina is committed to the development plan.

"We trust our work, and revalidated our support with the young athletes and will continue supporting them (economically and with education)," he said.

Ten years have passed since the first edition of the YOG at Singapore 2010. This set into motion a youth development that one or two years later were revalidated at the major national teams. A young athlete who participated in Singapore and continued the professional sports track at Tokyo 2020 could conceivably participate in four Olympic Games, and still have some more to dream of.

So, this postponement is a new hurdle for the future, since many of the new talents will be too old to compete at Dakar 2026. The transition will be long, and with few International competition experiences.

The IOC says it will continue to offer all IFs and NOC Continental Associations the full content of the educational programs of the Youth Olympic Games. This will allow for the objectives of this important and much-appreciated component of the YOG to be maintained between now and 2026, in particular during the Continental Youth Games.

Are the Youth Games going to disappear? The postponement might have set a hint of the future of the YOG’s development.

Written by Olivia Diaz Ugalde in Buenos Aires

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